There are a number of bite problems that orthodontists treat. One of the more common is known as dental crowding, also referred to as overcrowding, tooth crowding, or crowded teeth. If you or your child have signs of overcrowded teeth, consult an orthodontist as soon as you can. This is a treatable condition that can cause embarrassment, pain, and complications, and it’s important to note that it tends to get worse over time, even in adults. Below is some basic information about dental crowding to help you better understand this type of malocclusion (misalignment of the teeth when the jaw is closed) and the options for addressing it.
What Is Dental Crowding?
As you might deduce from the name, this type of malocclusion is when there’s not enough space in the jaw for all the adult teeth to grow in properly aligned and positioned. This can result in various alignment issues, such as rotated, angled, crooked, or overlapping teeth, as well as one or more teeth growing in too far forward or back. Crowded teeth can be a mild, moderate, or severe condition, with a single tooth or many misaligned to varying degrees.
Is Overcrowding Concerning?
Like most tooth alignment problems, dental crowding is often a cosmetic concern that can make a person self-conscious about smiling and even negatively affect self-confidence and self-esteem. But there are concerns beyond the cosmetic, as well. Misaligned teeth can be difficult to clean well, increasing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. They may also wear unevenly, or cause problems speaking clearly or chewing. Extra pressure on the gums or jaw can also cause discomfort, pain, chronic headaches, and even temporomandibular joint disorder.
What Causes Dental Crowding?
Often, overcrowding is simply a matter of teeth that are too big or a mouth that’s too small, which in turn is a result of genetics. Loosing baby teeth too soon or too late can also affect the way the adult teeth grow in and fit together. Some repetitive behaviors in early childhood, such as thumb or pacifier sucking, can lead to tooth crowding in the baby teeth—particularly when they continue too long.
How Are Crowded Teeth Treated?
The good news about dental crowding is that it’s typically a simple fix. Braces or clear aligner alternatives are the go-to treatment in most cases. In very mild cases of overcrowding, a fixed or removable retainer on its own may do the trick. Veneers are sometimes used to address moderate cases. In severe cases, an dental expanding device may be indicated. Also, there are occasions when a tooth is extracted to create more space for the remaining teeth.